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Monday, December 11, 2006

Training Learners How To Learn

Why do a lot of training investments go to waste?

I know of several companies here in the Philippines that invested in world renowned human resource development programs who have yet to see any return in their investments. How can such a program help many individuals in this country and other parts of the world and yet fail to deliver the results on these people? How can attending a seminar from world renowned gurus leave some people with so much while others go home practically empty-handed? Here’s another interesting question to ponder upon. What is the ratio of people who actually benefit from attending a seminar from those who waste their time totally? I do not have actual data but I have a nagging haunch that answer is not pretty at all.

What is causing all these? Poorly designed training? Maybe, but I suspect that the ratio of those who actually benefit from a great training program and a run-of-the-mill kind is more or less about as much. Why?

Let me use a metaphor here. I’d like to think of training as a game of catch. The trainer throws, the learner catches. While the success of the catcher is affected by the thrower’s intention to allow the learner to catch, it is also greatly dependent on the catchers’ skill in catching or his ability to catch. If the catcher doesn’t know how to catch, this game can get quite frustrating. Before this paragraph begins to sound like a tongue twister, let me derive the lesson I’m trying to point at. Learning is a skill pretty much like catching is. If the catcher doesn’t know how to catch, how can he catch? If the learner does not know how to learn, how can he learn? Those who benefit from training are those people who have the right learning habits.

Some people correlate learning with program appreciation. The smiley sheets (training evaluation forms) have been the source of comfort (or discomfort) of many trainers!. I know the feeling of seeing remarks such as “it was a great program, I learned a lot” or “ The facilitator is great, he changed my life!” It can really make you feel so good about your ability to train. At the back of my mind though I always worry about how people will use the knowledge they acquired from the program. You see this is the problem. The smiley sheet is not an indicator that the participants learned, the transfer of the knowledge to the shop floor is, the change in behavior that lead to better performance. I feel that not a lot of the participants have the right knowledge, skills and attitude in turning knowledge into learning. This is the very reason why some training investments go down the drain.

This is what I propose, I think there should be a separate training on how to learn. This program should allow the participants to know the dynamics of learning, find out what their learning styles are and know how to behave in a learning environment. No, I don’t have that kind of program available… yet. I am seriously considering doing a research and eventually coming up with one. I think a lot of people will benefit from it. I am also thinking about putting it as a standard module that I will use to start my programs. How about that? If you conduct training yourself. I think this is something that we should be doing so I encourage you to do the same if you are not doing it yet. I think we should train our catchers how to catch the ball before throwing it.

How about telling me what you think? Please leave a comment :)

See you next post!

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